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Yong Kim/Philadelphia Daily News/MCT/Newscom

Philly's filthy fraud

News | and other news briefs

Issue: "Between Hell and Hope," Feb. 12, 2011

The horrific conditions in a Philadelphia abortion center may help Pennsylvania pro-lifers push legislation that would require officials to inspect abortion facilities. Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell has been charged with eight counts of murder-one for killing a woman and seven for killing living, breathing babies-after running an abortion business the grand jury report describes as "a filthy fraud." Gosnell's center contained fetal remains in cat-food containers, severed baby feet in jars, blood-stained sheets, and medical instruments contaminated with venereal disease. Despite numerous complaints from women, a doctor, and a medical examiner, Pennsylvania health officials failed to inspect Gosnell's center after 1993. Denise Wilcox, Pennsylvania director for the National Right to Life Committee, said that Pennsylvania pro-life activists have been trying for years to pass legislation that would classify abortion businesses as "ambulatory surgical centers" and require regular inspections. Now, with new pro-life leaders in the legislature and governor's mansion, she said, "I think the days for these horrible inner-city clinics are over. I think it also lets people know that this abortion business is not so sterile and pretty as they imagined it to be."

Passport pass

The Department of State backed down on a controversial decision to make the United States passport application gender-neutral. On Jan. 7 the State Department announced that it planned to replace the words "Mother" and "Father" with "Parent 1" and "Parent 2." But after an outcry from pro-family groups, the State Department compromised and offered "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" as an option while retaining "Mother" and "Father" as well. Noel Clay, spokesperson for the State Department, said that it made the change to "more accurately reflect the range of families applying for documentation." In a statement, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said the gender-neutral passport advances the cause of same-sex parenting and violates the intent of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Learning problems

Tuition prices keep rising, but a survey released in January suggests that college students (and their parents) may not get what they pay for. Sociologists using data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment tracked more than 2,300 undergraduate students at 24 schools-and found that 45 percent show little improvement in critical thinking, reasoning, and writing skills after two years of college and 36 percent show little improvement after four years. Critics say the study doesn't take into account knowledge gained in specialized majors, but 70 college and university presidents have pledged to take public steps to improve learning. Edwin Welch, president of the University of Charleston, told the Associated Press that higher education needs transparency: "I think a student at a private institution who might go into debt . . . has the right to know what he can learn at the institution."

Casualty

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A U.S. missionary working in Mexico was shot in the head by gunmen about 70 miles south of the Texas border on Jan. 26. Nancy Davis, 59, died in a South Texas hospital 90 minutes after her husband drove the couple's truck against traffic across the Pharr International Bridge to reach U.S. services. Davis' husband, Sam, told investigators that gunmen in a pickup truck tried to stop the couple, and when Davis sped up they fired. The area is heavily controlled by one of Mexico's most dangerous drug cartels, the Zetas, and is the same area where 72 Latin American migrants were found slain last August. The Davises founded the Methodist Gospel Proclaimers Missionary Association in Weslaco, Texas, and were frequent speakers at U.S. missionary conferences.

Made in the USA

Dow Jones breakthroughs are big news, but less noted than the stock market breaking the 12000 index barrier for the first time in three years on Jan. 26 was news from U.S. factories: For first time since 1997 U.S. manufacturers have begun adding more jobs to their workforce than they are eliminating. The number of manufacturing jobs in the United States grew 1.2 percent in 2010-that means 136,000 factory jobs-and is expected to grow by about 2.5 percent, or 330,000 jobs, this year. Forecasters say the growth is spurred in part by a tax break passed by Congress in December that allows full deductions of certain types of corporate investments in 2011.

Guantanamo forever

The first civilian trial for a Guantanamo detainee, Tanzanian Ahmed Ghailani, resulted in a life sentence, handed down Jan. 25, even though the jury acquitted him of all but one of 285 charges. Ghailani was convicted of his conspiratorial role in the 1998 bombings of embassies in Tanzania and Kenya which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Ghailani's trial was a test for the Obama administration's plan to try terror suspects in civilian courts, a policy that has run into barriers from Congress and local officials. Attorney General Eric Holder called the life sentence evidence of the "strength of the American judicial system," but the next round of detainees is scheduled to be tried before a military commission. The military trial for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who allegedly orchestrated bombings like the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole that killed 17 sailors, will likely begin soon. Congress has blocked all funds for transferring detainees to the United States, even for trials. But Attorney General Eric Holder, in announcing Nashiri's trial, said the administration may still try the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a civilian court.

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